Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mt. Arayat (Traverse) | The Lonely Giant of Central Luzon

"I can see the city lights and hear the sounds of moving vehicles and party music, at last, we're nearing the civilization"
Exactly 41 days after my last climb (yikes, more than one month akong walang hike), I'm back again on the trails - and it was a major come back (Mt. Arayat traverse day hike for the win). Actually, it was Agnes of trampingphilippines.com who planned this major climb on Mt. Arayat, a Maglang-Arayat traverse dayhike she said. And since I am free on the 13th of May (yup, it was a mother's day climb), and the budget here suits very well with my almost exhausted wealth (ang hirap maging unemployed), I said yes to this climb.

But unexpected things do happen, a day before our climb, Agnes backed out due to some health issues. Responsibility now left on my shoulder. Ako na daw ang bahala sa climb group, madami naman kami kaya ituloy pa rin daw namin. Alright, wala nang atrasan 'to.


May 13, 2012 (Mother's Day 2012) - The climb pushed through. Our call time at Victory Liner Cubao was 3:30 AM, but I came a little more than 30 minutes late (sorry naman, I came all the way from a birthday party in Laguna and also, wala pa akong tulog). We missed Victory Liner's first trip to Olongapo (dahil nga late ako), so we walked to other bus line to check if there are trips to San Fernando, Pampanga.

Indeed, there's a bus bound for Orani, Bataan (it will pass by San Fernando) leaving in just a few minutes. Fare was P102.00, but since I look like a 15 year old kiddo, the bus conductor gave me student discount (P82.00 lang binayad ko). Strange that he did not ask for my student ID which I already surrendered about 2 months ago. At 4:30 AM, the bus left Cubao.

From SM Pampanga, the town of Magalang was our next destination. It was around 6AM when we arrived at SM. According to Pinoy Mountaineer site, jeeps heading to Magalang are waiting in front of SM Pampanga. We asked and checked around, but there were no jeeps yet at 6 in the morning, I guess we're too early for Magalang-bound jeeps. So we patiently waited, and waited and waited. Urghh, wala talaga! People said we're like waiting for a rain drop in a season of drought.

Almost 06:45 AM when we decided to just rent the van parked in front of SM (thanks to sirs Bogart, Niño, and Migs for arranging our ride). We paid P140.00 each, a price quite higher than the supposed commute fare, pero okay lang, kaya pa naman siya i-shoulder ng depleting budget ko. The rented van brought us directly to Brgy. Ayala (the main jump-off) right exactly where the concrete road ends. Our van missed the "campo" - the registration site - so we just listed our names in a piece of paper and gave it to a tanod (we're not really sure if he's a tanod), sabi niya siya na raw mag-reregister sa amin.

We did not hire a guide (dagdag expense pa yun, hindi na kaya ng bulsa ko) because I have read online that the confusing trail between the two peaks of Mt. Arayat is now filled with obvious trail signs. We'll just rely on these signs. Before we started, I prayed that this group, composed purely of first timers in Mt. Arayat, would successfully traverse the notorious mountain. At exactly 7:15 AM, we started the trek.

Into the North Peak

A brand new Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross would welcome the hikers coming from Brgy. Ayala. Life sized statues depicting Christ's sufferings on his way to Mt. Calvary are set on the early parts of the Magalang Trail. It was however complete only until the 6th station, stations beyond that were still under construction further up the trail.

Via Crucis on Magalang trail - under construction
The trail ascends gradually up until the white rocks junction, so it's a kind of a good warm up for the more challenging trails beyond the North Peak. There's a rooty-rocky portion on the trail that was very picturesque (parang ruins lang ng old civilization). There are also some parts of the trail that reminded me the rooty Dolores trail of Mt Cristobal but on a wider scale.

Beautiful rocky-rooty scene
We did not encounter a split on the trail until we reached the White Rocks junction. Ah, my favorite part on the Magalang trail - the White Rocks. I was very eager to do a side trip at the White Rocks. Why, because the view there was simply breathtaking, I believe that it offers the best view on that side of Mt. Arayat. I was glad that the whole group liked the place the way I do. In fact we spent almost an hour on that area (photo ops and rest).

the split - turn right to the White Rocks
turn left to proceed to the North Peak
huge rocks on our way to the white rocks viewdeck
the north peak seen from the White Rock View deck. Note that there's a tower on the summit.
ako lang at wala nang iba.
We resumed the trek at around 10:45 AM. And in less than an hour, tadaa...

almost at the summit
we reached the North Peak. Oh by the way, we met French trail runners along the trail (syempre hndi na ako nagsalita, nosebleed mode yun e).

Photo from Mam Mars.
Them with the French girls

After that roughly 4 hours trek to the summit, I can say that the Magalang trail is fairly easy, could be done by beginners. There's no confusing parts, and the ascent was not very strenuous. Also, the biota is relatively healthy, biologists would surely enjoy the trail. I personally liked the variety of fungi (mushrooms) I encountered along the trail. It was however a bit saddening that the trail is filled with irresponsible hikers' garbage, especially in the white rocks area. Mt. Arayat needs a clean-up drive. The vandalism on trees and rocks is also irritating. Arghh, darn you whoever did these craziness!!!

one of the varieties of mushroom I saw along the trail.
to all the hikers, please be responsible naman.

From North to South

Lunch and quick nap - that's what we did upon reaching the north peak.

lunch break under the tower
After spending more than an hour at the North Peak, we proceeded again with the trek on the most difficult part of the whole traverse (north to south peak). Of  course, I was thrilled and excited for the challenge. 

view from the north peak
we were required to register again. it's free naman so oks na oks lang.
this flag marks the summit.
group shot at the North Peak.
L2R: Jerson, Niño, Mars, Jay, Cris, Me, Rax, Bogart, Migs
these pips are awesome. I'm looking forward to climbing with them again.

Pero grabe lang, we were welcomed right away by a challenging steep descent - probably 80 degrees. It became even more challenging when the rain poured over us (extra challenge talaga). We encountered several confusing splits on the trail, some buwis-buhay narrow paths, and some you-need-to-cling-on-roots-and-branches trail. It was indeed very challenging but really fun nonetheless.

steep descent, kanya kanyang kapit sa mga puno

The rain did not stop until we reached the boulder portion of the trail (the most challenging part). Going up the boulder wasn't a pain in the ass, and the view there was quite very good (but also nakakalula).

just below the boulder
group shot again at the top of the boulder. Kaya kami ginabi e, ang hihilig sa photo ops.
Going down to the other side of the boulder made my knees shake a bit. We scrambled down a vertical boulder of about 12 feet high (kapit lang sa roots at rocks).

Another difficult part was the long steep ascent (almost 90 degrees I guess) to South Peak that involved scrambling again. For more than 20 minutes, we were thinking where we can grip next, where we can step next, ah very challenging talaga.

south peak at last

04:45 PM when we reached South Peak (medyo late na sa itinerary). Medyo nakahinga na ako because I know that the trail beyond that is easy. We even checked the famous South Peak view deck, but it's almost completely covered by thick clouds. (sayang wala tuloy ang ultimate photo ops).

we were so unfortunate that the South Peak View Deck is covered with thick clouds. wala ang ultimat photo ops ng Mt. Arayat
South peak Camp site, also covered with thick fog
Long Trek Back to the Plains

We really had a hard time (consumed to much time) passing through the North-South Trail, so darkness soon approached us. The very long trek from the south peak to Brgy. Juan Bano was actually easy, but the rain (that made the trail muddy) and the darkness (that turned us blind) made it also a challenging trek. 

I can't see much of the trail, darkness hid the trail signs, so we just relied on instinct. The mud also made the trail a bit slippery, I slipped twice. All these things kept us in slow pace.

It's my longest dayhike yet, akala ko wala nang katapusan. The city lights and the sounds of moving vehicles and party music bring hope to our weary feet. I thought we're nearing the civilization, but it still took us hours to finally reach the ground. The usual 2.5 hours trek back to the plains turned almost 4 hours.

concrete road at last.

We reached the Brgy. Juan Bano at 8:30 PM, no one's manning the ranger station anymore. So we walked further the concrete road until we saw the people from Back to Christ Foundation. Our big thanks to them for letting us use their shower and offering us their truck as our ride to Arayat Town (for a fee of course). 

From Arayat, we rode a jeep back to San Fernando where we had our late dinner, then we chased bus back to Manila. I reached home at around 3am.


All in all, we did Mt. Arayat Traverse in 13 hours. About 4 hours of it were spent on rest, photo ops and munching food and 9 hours were spent on the trail. My longest dayhike yet. Congrats to all who joined this hike, truly a memorable one.

And by the way, I would like to thank these sites: Lagataw and Pinoy Mountaineer, for helping us out in planning our Mt. Arayat Traverse.    

Read through my other Arayat experiences:
Second time around
Clear day Arayat


  1. Congrats sa arayat trav~
    wala na yung liguan/pool sa Bgy Banyo?

    1. meron pero sobrang gabi na kami nakababa lahat sa Brgy. J.Baño. sarado na daw kaya nakiligo na lang kami sa Back to Christ Foundation.

  2. wow. congrats ser!

    magkakilala pala kayo ni sir jerson.

    cheers to more climbs. :)

  3. nice!!! back to hiking kayo ulit sir ivan... wish to climb it someday...

  4. ito pa isa pang post, save ko na lang muna para mabasa ko later.

  5. wow...very nice and responsible hike... i love the part where you have to pick someone else's rubbish, i wish every hikers are as responsible as you..nice blogsite too.. keep on rocking dude..

  6. Sir may camping site po ba sa arayat plano kc namin mag overnyt d2, and pano ba diskarte pag mag climb dto ng wala ng guide, kukulit kc nung mga tao ayaw mag paakyat ng walang guide tnx ^^ nice site

    1. yep, may campsite sa Magalang trail (malapit sa white rocks). meron din sa south peak campsite (malapit sa view deck). Mas maganda mag-camp sa south peak campsite. although hindi ako sure kung meron water source.

      kung sa brgy. Ayala ang start ng trek nyo, hindi kayo kukulitin.. basta meron sa inyo marunong bumasa ng trailsigns, magsusurvive na kayo sa traverse nito.

  7. Hi Ivan,
    I hope you don't mind sharing your story on our Pampanga Facebook Fan Site. https://www.facebook.com/pampangadirectory

    Keep up creating more awesome stories such as this.
    More power!
    Louie of Pampanga

  8. Maganda talaga mghiking sa Mt Arayat. minsan join kame sa susunod na hiking nyo. http://watawat.8m.com eto ung trek namin dati sa mt arayat.

  9. nadadaanan ko lang yan pag pauwi ng nueva ecija. ganyan pala kaganda view sa taas nyan :)

  10. Sir gusto po sana namin umakyat sa mt. Arayat. I've read some of your mountaineering experience and it was inspiring. Good to know that you're also a mountaineer junkie like us. Hehe. Magtatanong lang po kung magkano yung expenses niyo on this hike. Thank u

  11. sir ask ko lang my campsite po ba sa south peak? and kaylangan ba ng guide sa san juan bano trail? if needed po baka may kilala ka sir.. pahingi nmn po ng number


  12. sir ask ko lang po my campsite ba sa south peak? and need ba ng guide sa san juan bano trail? or kaya naman i navigate un trail walang ligaw? and if needed po pahingi naman ng number ng kilala niyong guide...


    1. yes meron pong campsite about 10 minutes bago makarating sa South Peak kung mangagaling sa Juan Baño. at sa tingin ko wala naman ligaw dun.

      Hindi ko pa nasubukan umakyat from Juan Baño so wala ako mabibigay sa'yo na contact.

  13. to Mr. Ivan am proud because am a capampangan its overwhelming to read a great story from a wonderful people like you my warm thanks and to your team tnx am proud to be a Pampangan

  14. Hi Sir,
    Meron poh ba kayong contact for guide for this traverse?

    Thank you poh.

  15. Hello Sir,
    How much po safe budget dito?


  16. 09291113794 try nyo po kontakin ang number na yan.

  17. Sir Ivan, question po. Sana maalala nyo pa. How long is the travel time from SM to Magalang? Nakalagay kasi you hopped in the charted van at 7AM and started the trek at 7:15.

    1. travel from SM to Magalang should be about 30-45 minutes..
      if I remember it right, mga 6:45 kami sumakay sa van.



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